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Towson council member to propose downzoning site of planned Valvoline that was challenged by community

Baltimore County Council member David Marks will recommend to reduce the zoning on the site of a planned service station shop at the intersection of Loch Raven Boulevard and Joppa Road, a project Marks said nearby community associations unanimously opposed.

“This is a prominent corner and I don’t think a service station fits with [the community’s] vision,” Marks said.

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Through the county’s Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, the Towson Republican said he plans to recommend changing the zoning from business local to business local restricted, a designation that does not allow auto service shops like the Valvoline Instant Oil Change that was granted a special exception in 2018 by an administrative law judge to be built on the property, once the site of a First Mariner Bank branch.

The BLR zoning would allow for banks, athletic clubs, martial arts and dance studios, restaurants, fast-food services or taverns; it also would allow arcades, batting ranges, bowling alleys or miniature golf by special exception.

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The developer, the Boston-based Henley Enterprises, a franchisee of Valvoline service stations, requested through the CZMP to change the zoning to business major, which allows large-scale commercial development.

A representative from Henley Enterprises did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

In a November 2018 ruling, Administrative Law Judge John Beverungen granted a special exception to the Valvoline developer, saying the community had not provided evidence that would “establish the adverse effects would be more pronounced at this location than at some other [business local] zoned site within a revitalization district.”

The plan has been tied up in an appeals process since then, challenged by the Associates of Loch Raven Village and the Knettishall Community Association, which said the service station would add traffic to an already-congested intersection, and because similar businesses saturate the area.

“There are multiple oil change and service centers within a couple blocks ... from there,” said Jordan Levine, a commercial property owner in the Loch Raven area and member of the Joppa-Loch Raven Task Force convened by Marks to provide input on future development within the Loch Raven Commercial Revitalization District, which includes the Valvoline site.

“Adding another one didn’t seem to make sense,” he said.

The intersection operates at a failing level of service, according to the 2020 Baltimore County Basic Services Transportation Map, the worst grade of a system that assesses intersection bottlenecks.

It dropped from a “D” level of service grade in 2018. In Baltimore County, building permits for nonindustrial development in areas around failing intersections are temporarily prohibited.

Marks said his move to reduce the property zoning also keeps community members from spending more out of their own pockets to challenge the project in a case that made its way to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

Levine said the broader community would prefer a development on the site that “would be more community-centric, community-oriented, something that the residents would use and walk to.”

The Baltimore County Council is scheduled to adopt final zoning changes requested through the CZMP at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25. The virtual meeting can be streamed online.

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